Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A New Adventure Begins

We made it. I was pleasantly surprised and highly annoyed by our trip from San Francisco to Brisbane, Australia. Nothing like traveling nine 50lb bags deep, including a stroller and car-seat, plus five extra carry-ons, a bassinet, and a baby. We did the smart thing by getting a shuttle to take us to the airport and not trying to get everything into my mom's car because we never would have fit.

When we got to the airport, Mark had to move all our stuff inside while I held MM (aka Mini Mark or The Baby) and watched both piles from the doorway. Then Mark tracked down three carts to use. We loaded all the stuff up and with a cart in each hand for Mark and one for me to push along with the stroller, we rolled up to the ticket line with a screaming baby. I could just feel the looks of "oh lord please don't let me be sitting next to them..." I promise he's usually really quiet! To my surprise I actually got a few nice comments from people as I waited by the side and Mark stood in line. Once we got to the counter for Air New Zealand we had to go through checking all those bags. I love the fact that MM was only an extra $100 on my ticket and he not only got the same baggage allotment as me but also a stroller and carseat for free - both of which I had packed in extra stuff. We had to check four extra bags over our allotted three (+ stroller and carseat) but luckily the first had minimal baggage fees (as far as baggage fees go). It was the last bag we were concerned for because that extra one could have cost more than the other three combined but lucky for us it was Mark's Paragliding Wing (oh yeah - he got certified while we were home - just couldn't sit still for that many months) and sporting equipment get's a discount on the extra bag fees. So now I know if I have extra stuff to bring pack it so it looks like designated sports equipment.

So here is the annoying part of the trip. Our Visa cards have been going crazy. Over the last few months they have been denied a few times. Of course every time we've called they've said that it was because of suspicious activity - none of which we thought was very suspicious. Earlier in the day, Mark and I run into Target for a few last minute items and once again Mark's card got denied after making a purchase just a few minutes before in the electronics section. Needless to say we were really annoyed. Mark gave Visa a nice talking to on the phone and told them that we travel a lot and we depend on our cards to work. We go to a lot of locations where we can't call right away if our cards don't work. Well, you can guess what happened when we got to the counter at the airport...that's right denied again after we told them we were on our way to the airport. The worst part is that our other Visa card was denied too and then my ATM Visa. We were so embarrassed. Of course the ticket agent was looking at us like we shouldn't be traveling if we can't pay our bills - I was slightly hoping that she might just look the other way on our baggage fees but in the end we were able to use our trusty old American Express and luckily for us we were still in the states because while Amex says they don't have international fees, trust someone who has done the math to say that yes you are being screwed by them if you use their card overseas. After that debacle, I tried to get cash and -- surprise surprise -- I couldn't. We got on the horn with all the cards again knowing we couldn't go overseas without our cards working. What a nightmare. They just kept telling us that it was because of suspicious activity. Well maybe if your computer system didn't suck it would realize that while these transactions may be suspicious for some people these are all highly normal transactions for us. None of the people at any of our cards knew of any new security measures but it is apparent that Visa has something going on since multiple Visas were declined. I've looked into the matter a bit and apparently Visa actually wants to start text-messaging you every time you get a charge. I'm pretty sure that the purpose of this is so that you become responsible for the charges if you don't dispute them fast enough. Well that'll work just great for those of us traveling overseas :) Anyhow, you might have also guessed that one of our cards was denied again at the rental car counter in Brisbane...back to square one with that one. We were/are wondering if anyone else has has Visa issues lately. We have one friend who told us that yes he now has to call before every large transaction to make sure that it goes through. I could probably go on about this for while but I'll get back to the trip.

Once through security and at the terminal, Mark ran quickly to get us something to eat before boarding the plane. I hate taking a chance with airplane food and a long flight. While he was away a woman came up and asked if I needed any help with the baby and then told me she'd be on my flight so just ask if I did. I'm not sure if she thought I was alone or not but it was nice of her to offer. Anyhow, we got really lucky. Mark wasn't sitting next to me on the flight since we booked our tickets separately, but it turned out to be a mostly empty flight so he swapped his whole row for the whole row behind my whole row and MM had his own bassinet so we has plenty of room to stretch out and relax for the flight. I even got some sleep since my awesome baby slept almost the whole time (except for feedings and diapers) he's already a pro traveler.

We had a bit of a glitch in NZ when we got off the plane and our stroller didn't come up. They said they checked it through to Brisbane but I was a little scared they hadn't and my nice stroller was going to be lost to the luggage gods. Plus I didn't know how we would transport all our carry-ons and baby without it.  After giving us a lecture on how we should travel with an umbrella stroller instead (um - yeah he's too small for one of those and I'm moving around the globe so yeah my big-boy stroller had to come with me) the gate agent gave us a wheelchair to use.

Maybe this is a good time to start my talks on what things I've brought and what things I passed on for this journey and how they are working out. My stroller rocks!!! Yes, that's three exclamation points. I got a Bumbleride Indie Stroller and pretty much all the accessories to go with it and it has been awesome. I debated at first about getting the additional carrycot as it was more money to spend but it was totally worth it. First off, I hated the idea of having to keep him strapped into a carseat every time we were on the move since we are on the move a lot (and most of the time we aren't in a car). Even though the stroller does lay flat for an infant I wanted the ability to see him a little better and was a little worried he could slide out. Since the carrycot easily removes from the stroller and collapses down we carried MM onto the plane and since we didn't have our stoller on our layover we were able to keep him in it to sleep instead of holding him for five hours. We also got the travel bag which totally protected our stroller even though it went all the way through to Brisbane (yes I did get it back). I was able to check all the stroller "things" in the bag and I think it'll be good for storage on our crossings. I'm sure I'll have more to say on this stroller but for now two thumbs up - buy this if you are looking for a stroller!

We all got to Brisbane in one piece and upgraded our compact car to a minivan to fit all our luggage (what was I thinking booking that car?) and loaded up everything in the rain thinking "oh crap how are we going to get this stuff on the boat tomorrow if this keep up?" I guess you'll just have to tune in to find out...

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